Look where I am

Look where I am

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I’m in Paris for WordCamp EU 2017. In case you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about it’s a two-day tech conference about everything WordPress. Last year it was in Vienna and attracted over 2,000 people. This year is even bigger. It’s a community-led event organised by a team of volunteers. There are WordCamps all over the world and chances are there’s one near you.

The WordPress community is very special. WordPress software is open-source which means anyone can download the software for free and anyone can contribute to its development. WordPress drives just over 28% of all web sites and the number rises with each year. It’s a privilege to be a part of this and wonderful to see and connect with all the people who attend.

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My kids addressed the city council petitions committee

My kids addressed the city council petitions committee

It has been an eventful day. Sometimes I wish my life was dull and uneventful because right now I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Today, Daniel, Elizabeth, and I presented a petition to the petitions committee at the city council. The petition is asking for cycle paths that children can use to cycle to and from school in safety. We were given 10 minutes during which we could argue our case and then answer questions. Both the kids spoke and they delivered their messages beautifully. The only blunder was my own when I accidentally turned off Daniel’s microphone. The microphones were such that when you turned yours on it disabled everyone else’s. Coming from a family where everyone talks over one another I think these microphones are a wonderful idea.

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What did we talk about in 10 minutes? We gave an example of what we want using this photo of Dutch children cycling to school in the city of Groningen.

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I also made the point that the Netherlands has not always been this way. In the 1970s it was just like most British cities are today with cars ruling the roads. I shared some then and now photos which I got from the blog, A View From the Cycle Path. Here is a then and now photo from Assen in the Netherlands. It’s exactly the same street in both photos.

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I wanted to make the point that the Netherlands was at the same point back then that we are now. This means it’s something we can do here too; all that’s required is the political will to do it.

Elizabeth spoke about the cost benefit ratio of spending on cycling infrastructure. For every £1 we spend on cycling infrastructure we get £5.50 back in benefits. This is according to data from the UK government.

Ben took this photo of the three of us outside. I deliberately wore this old-fashioned dress because I wanted to make the statement that I’m not a cyclist. I’m just a mum who uses a bicycle to get around and I frequently ride my bike in dresses and long skirts. I’m not an athlete or a superwoman, I just want to make the world a better place for my children.

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Criticising our leaders and faith-based leadership

We live in a free society where we can criticise our leaders without fearing for our lives and I value that immensely. We ought to be challenging Theresa May on the appropriateness of a deal with the DUP. For the same reason, Labour’s Diane Abbott can’t now claim unfair treatment for the criticism that was directed at her during the campaign. She said some silly things and in a democratic society we ought to challenge what people say. But perhaps all those who want to defend Theresa May and DUP will be more likely to listen to John Major who voiced his concerns about it on BBC news yesterday.

The Good Friday agreement says this:

…the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality…

If the British government form a deal with just one Northern Ireland party they are not exercising rigorous impartiality.

I saw this on Twitter this morning:

Obviously I would rather see more seats for Green MPs than DUP MPs and so I might be biased, however electoral reform would also benefit parties like UKIP, and I would never vote for UKIP. In the 2015 election UKIP won over 3 million votes but only got 1 MP. There’s something wrong with the system when we end up with leadership that is not representative of the diversity of views in the population.

I also want to say something about faith-based leadership which has no place in modern politics. We should all demand that our leaders base policy decisions on evidence and reason rather than religious faith and here’s why. When a government legislates for something like, for instance, putting warning notices on cigarette packets, they can and should provide sound evidence to support the decision. If instead their decision is based on their faith all they can offer is “God said so” which does not speak to the people in the population who follow a different faith or who have no faith at all.

William Clifford, a nineteenth-century English mathematician, speaks more about this in his essay, The Ethics of Belief. He starts with a story about a ship-owner who is about to send his ship full of emigrants out to sea. The ship is old and not very well built and he doubts that it is seaworthy. Rather than putting the ship through expensive refitting he decides to trust in God that all the unhappy families will be cared for and he casts his doubts aside. The ship sinks killing everyone on board. Clifford says the ship-owner had no right to believe in the soundness of his ship because there was no evidence to suggest it was seaworthy.

He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts.

Take me to your leader

It’s hard not to feel a bit of schadenfreude about the situation Theresa May has created for herself. When she first became prime minister about one year ago I was cautiously hopeful. I didn’t know anything about her and it was a relief just to have someone in charge because for a short period we had no leader at all. I particularly enjoyed this cartoon that appeared in Private Eye at that time:

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When we eventually had a Prime Minister again everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Theresa May then gave a speech about creating a Britain that “works for everyone”.

Fast-forward one year and she called an election promoting policies that favour fox hunters and antique dealers which is not exactly a Britain that works for everyone. When a nurse who had not received a pay rise in 8 years confronted her on live tv her response was that there’s “no magic money tree” which is heartless and condescending to say the least. She also claimed to offer stable and strong leadership through Brexit negotiations but has yet to reveal what these Brexit plans are. If they’re as poor as her election manifesto, which was, to quote George Osborne, “one of the worst in history“, then we’re in trouble. I’m not surprised she lost her majority; I’m surprised that anyone voted for her at all.

Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, is offering policies that do work for everyone. I am 100% supportive of renationalising the railways. I saw what happened in New Zealand when the national rail network was sold off to an Australian company. They sucked it dry and ran it into the ground. Now there’s practically no rail network in New Zealand at all. Many countries have nationalised rail networks like Germany, France, and Italy. It’s really not very extreme.

It’s outrageous that nurses have not had a pay rise since 2009. We all need nurses. And then there’s the 20,000 fewer police officers on our streets thanks to cuts by the Conservatives.

What’s next? Some say there’ll be another election. I would vote every day for the next 6 months if it meant getting rid of Theresa May. Maybe she’ll resign? What has become crystal clear is that she’s the worst possible person to negotiate a Brexit deal with Europe. Theresa May lacks self-awareness, critical thinking ability, and seems to think the best negotiating strategy is to piss the other side off as much as possible. I rather like Victor Venema‘s advice to the British government which is to approach negotiations from a friendly and communicative position and Jeremy Corbyn is much better suited to this role.

Here are some of my favourite Tweets from the past week:

 

 

Strong and stable my arse

Theresa May’s snap election that wasn’t meant to happen turned out to be a bit of a disaster for her. She was handed a majority on a silver platter and somehow managed to squander it all on horse manure.  Now she’s carrying on as though nothing happened. It’s a bit like that Monty Python sketch where the fellow loses each arm and then each leg but continues fighting as though nothing happened.

 

While I’m pleased Jeremy Corbyn did so well given the depth of the hole he had to climb out of, I’m not particularly pleased with the result. Which is worse: a majority government with Theresa May at the helm or a non-majority with, to quote Craig Murray, “The nastiest people in politics.” In order to form a government she has jumped into bed with the only party that agreed to join her: The Democratic Unionist Party.

Craig Murray’s article about the alliance is pretty scary reading.

The loyalist terrorists murdered 1,016 people in the period 1969-2001. They shot someone dead in a supermarket car park in an internecine dispute actually during the election campaign. In all the media attacks on Corbyn about the IRA, there was no acknowledgement that Loyalist terrorism even existed. I think we can be pretty certain that the media are not going to start digging into the terrorist links of the Tories’ allies now. But social media is going to discredit them.

Full story here:
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/06/tories-leap-unpopularity-abyss/

It’s hard to see how DUP supporters will like this alliance given their election campaign posters:

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There’s only one thing left for me to do and that’s to get one of these “Strong and stable my arse posters” for our front window.

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I voted

I voted today.

I am a British taxpayer and I’m happy for my tax to go towards a world-class education system, pay rises for nurses, a strong national health service, more police officers, and effective policies that protect the environment for my children and their children.

I did not vote for policies that only benefit dealers in antiques and people who get pleasure from hunting small furry animals.

I voted Labour.